CASTEAU, Belgium – The Iraqi military academy that NATO plans to set up outside Baghdad should be able to train about 1,000 officers a year, the alliance’s top commander in Europe said Thursday.
U.S. Gen. James L. Jones said the training mission would likely be smaller than the 3,000 instructors, guards and support troops that his planners have set as a ceiling for the mission in Iraq.
“Three thousand will be the maximum and it is going to be less than that, I think,” he told reporters at NATO’s military headquarters in southern Belgium. The number of actual instructors is expected to be around 350.
Jones declined to speculate when the academy would be up and running. Allied military experts presented a detailed plan for expanding the training to the 26 allied nations this week but officials said it would take at least a couple of weeks before it is approved.
Jones said at least 16 of the 26 allies had “indicated willingness to contribute troops inside Iraq” for the training.
Others will help train troops outside the country, he added. A first group of about 20 Iraqi officers are set to begin a weeklong course Monday at NATO’s Joint Warfare center in Norway.
NATO started training soldiers inside Iraq in August and has about 70 trainers and support staff in Baghdad.
On Afghanistan, Jones was hopeful allied nations will give his peacekeeping force the troops it needs to expand into the west of the country before parliamentary elections scheduled for April.
Since taking over peacekeeping in Kabul in August 2003, NATO has slowly expanded its mission, replacing units of the 18-000- strong U.S.-led combat mission as regions become more stable.